Elvis Presley became both famous and infamous — and John Lennon wasn’t always a fan. He and the other Beatles went out of their way not to mimic Presley in a very specific way. In addition, John felt Mick Jagger replicated one of Presley’s mannerisms that he couldn’t stand.
John Lennon on the Beatles’ crazy antics during their early days
John opened up about so much in a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone, where he discussed everyone from Judy Collins to Bob Dylan to Chairman Mao Zedong. He made some surprising comments about Presley and how he moved. Presley was known for swiveling his hips — an act which many people felt was too sexual back in the 1950s.
Initially, the Beatles had some interesting stage antics of their own. “When we were younger, we used to move, we used to jump around and do all the things they’re doing now, like going on stage with toilet seats and sh*tting and p*ssing.” However, the Beatles deliberately wouldn’t move like Presley.
“[T]his is interesting: in the early days in England, all the groups were like Elvis and a backing group, and the Beatles deliberately didn’t move like Elvis,” John said. “That was our policy because we found it stupid and bullsh*t. Then Mick Jagger came out and resurrected ‘bullsh*t movement,’ wiggling your *rse. So then people began to say the Beatles were passé because they don’t move. But we did it as a conscious move.”
Mick Jagger, his dancing, and a rock ‘n’ roll circus
Well, what about Jagger? Jagger’s dance moves have received a mixed reception over the years. Some fans find them strange, distracting, and undignified. Others think they’re iconic. Many of the former fans feel validated by Maroon 5’s hit song “Moves like Jagger,” which celebrates Jagger’s dance skills.
In addition, John appeared in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. In it, Jagger dances by wiggling his arse. Maybe John wasn’t a fan of Jagger’s dancing, but he was still willing to put up with it on television.
Did John Lennon have anything nice to say about Elvis Presley?
John had some harsh critiques for Presley’s dancing, however, he also had some very kind words for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. John didn’t want to move like Presley, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t want to be Presley at one point. According to the book The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001, John’s sons, Sean and Julian, inducted Presley into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. During the ceremony, they read a quote from their father praising Presley.
In it, John said “Van Gogh probably wanted to be Renoir or whoever went before him. And I wanted to be Elvis.” To this day, John’s words are cited to illustrate the impact Presley had.